I always enjoy John Warner's blog over at Inside Higher Ed, and I really liked today's post in particular - it's about the "face crumble" ... and at least at my school, the end of semester tension and stress is palpable, even if I'm not seeing the actual face crumble as John describes it. Here's the comment I left there:
John, I enjoy your blog so much (it is a must-read for me), but I don't think I have ever commented before. Today, though, I just had to comment to say THANK YOU for this article. I really appreciated what you said here. I teach mostly seniors, and even though I teach online, I am very aware of the face crumble. For example, one of the blog options in my classes is a kind of "how are things going" blog post, and while there are plenty of posts filled with good news and enthusiasms of all kinds, I also see students grappling with a combination of meaninglessness and urgency, not knowing quite why they are doing what they are doing in school but knowing that they have to get an A... or else... (the ellipses stand for a whole range of fears, some real, some imagined). I'm not sure if I see this as significantly worse than when I started teaching 15 years ago; in any case, it is something I have always worried about, and I try to design my classes to be as low-stress as possible, even though they are a lot of work (like you, I teach writing). Since a huge amount of that stress is focused on grades and grading, I share my thoughts about grading and school with the students at the beginning of the semester here: http://onlinecourselady.pbwork.
While I would far prefer just to be giving P/NP grades, I've done the best I can to remove the grading pressure from the class, while still having high expectations for my students as learners. As LEARNERS - not as "gradees" so to speak.
So, thanks again for this article - and I think one of the most important things that we can do is exactly what you have done here: speak up for the students and voice our concerns since, all too often, we fail to ask the students how we are really doing in our "higher ed" efforts.